Thursday, September 1, 2011

Searching Census Records on

In has 1790 to 1930 U.S. Census Records, I highlighted what was indexed and provided to users in the U.S. Census records available on  In general, has access to the FamilySearch census record collections, which includes an index to all of them and page images for the 1850, 1870, and 1900 U.S. census.

I wanted to show some screen shots and make some observations about searching these census records.

A general search in the census records (all years) for Isaac Seaver, born in 1823 in Massachusetts, produces a screen like this:

There are links to each match on the right.  If an image is available, then an image is shown and can be clicked on to view the image.

The search fields are shown on the left-hand side of the screen so the user can modify their search criteria - the fields are First Name, Last Name (required), Middle Name, Maiden Name, Residence (Required), Birth State, County, Birth Year (with range), and census Year.  The user can check a box for Exact matches for the First Name, Last Name and Residence. 

An 1840 census record looks like this:

As you can see, there is no other information, or links to other information, except for the name and residence.

The 1870 U.S. census match looks like this:

In the screen above, you can see the links to other persons in the household, and you can click on the image to see the image, which is shown below:

The 1920 U.S. census search matches for Fred Seaver (born 1852 in Massachusetts) is shown below:

I tried to use a wild card for his names in the search box, and saw this:

A user cannot use wild cards for any name - the acceptable characters are letters, spaces and dashes. The user can select either "All" or a specific state for the Residence and Birth State fields.  The user can add a birth year range of plus/minus 0, 1, 2, 5, or 10 years. An "Exact" check box produces only an Exact Match.

The lack of wild card capability makes census searches much more difficult, because of the many errors in enumerating and indexing the records.  The free website permits wild card searches, why doesn't

Disclosure: provided a free subscription to their collection at the SCGS 2011 Jamboree which I appreciate. This did not influence my statements in this blog post, but it did enable them to be made!

1 comment:

Julie Hilll said...

Randy, thanks so much for your feedback. Wild card searches are an enhancement we’d like to add in the future – as we know this can be very useful. In the meantime, our search engine has several capabilities built in that are helpful. When users run a search, built in logic will look for name variants (like if you enter “Jo” we also return names like “Joe” “Joseph” etc), alternate names, and misspellings. We look forward to adding the rest of the census images, along with search functionality enhancements, in the coming months. Thanks!